Jean Frederic de Waldeck

Birth: 1766


Jean Frederic de Waldeck (1766-1875) was an archaeologist, b. in Paris, France, 16 March, 1766; d. there, 30 April, 1875. When nineteen years of age he went with Levaillant to the Cape of Good Hope, and made explorations in South Africa. On his return to Paris in 1788 he began to study art under the guidance of David and Prudhon, and this experience enabled him to make authentic records of his travels, especially those in Central America. He was present at the siege of Toulon in 1793, and in 1794 joined the army in Italy. In 1798 he followed the expedition to Egypt, but did not serve, and, when Napoleon's plans failed, he decided to travel in Africa.

With four companions, he left Assouan, crossed the desert of Dongola, and passed the Dji bel-el-Eumery. The four travelers, however, succumbed to fatigue and sickness, and De Waldeck alone lived to reach the coast, after four months of weary travel, danger, and privation. He returned to France, and subsequently embarked for the Mauritius, going from there to the Indian ocean. In 1819 he visited Chili with Lord Cochrane, and went upon an archaeological expedition to Guatemala. He returned to England in 1822 and settled in London, where he was engaged in making the lithographs to illustrate a work by Capt. del Rio on the ruins of Palenque and Chiapas.

From his own observations he was led to believe that these designs were incorrect, and he determined to visit the ruins. He left England for Mexico, as engineer for the silver-mines of Tlalpujahua, and, after remaining there a short time, visited the Toltec and Aztec ruins. The French government had granted him a pension of 2,000 francs in 1826, and with this encouragement he spent several years in studying the details of the Palenque ruins, making drawings of them and maps of the country, and collecting specimens of the flora and fauna. Having lost the greater part of his sketches and note-books, he was obliged to give up his researches, and returned to Europe after twelve years spent in America. On his return he pursued his archaeological studies, and sold his drawings of the Palenque ruins to the French government.

They were published in 1863, and De Waldeck was engaged to make the lithographs, though he had passed his hundredth year. Two of his Mexican pictures were exhibited in 1869, under the title of "Loisir du centenaire." In the same year he sent the senior editor of this work the original picture from which the accompanying portrait and autograph are taken. In 1870 he exhibited "Ruins of the Province of Tzendales."

While in Mexico he discovered in a convent of nuns the unique copy of a work of Aretino, with illustrations by Jules Remain and Marc Antonio Raimondi, which had caused the banishment of the two artists, and had been confiscated and destroyed by the Inquisition, the copy deposited in the archives being afterward abstracted and finding its way to Mexico. M. de Waldeck was made a member of the Council of American archaeology. He spent the last forty years of his life in Paris, retaining his faculties to the end. He published "Voyage archaeologique et pittoresque dans la Yucatan" (Paris, 1837), and, with Brasseur de Bourbourg, "Monuments anciens du Mexique, Palenque, et autres ruines de l'ancienne civilisation" (1866).


Appletons' Cyclopaedia of American Biography (1889) pg. 320

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